What nearly ended as a dominant day for Jimmie Johnson coming to fruition actually resulted in Penske Racing’s Brad Keselowski taking the checkered flag for the GEICO 400 from Chicagoland Speedway. The race, the first of the ten races that comprise the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, was Keselowski’s first win in the Chase.

Winning on Sunday puts Keselowski atop the leaderboard for the first time in his career and gives him momentum as he awaits the next of the nine races left in this year’s Chase.

But Keselowski is keeping this victory in check.

“We’re in victory lane, Race 1 of the Chase,” Keselowski said. “It feels like Round 1 of a heavyweight title bout. It’s good to win it. It feels great. But there’s a lot of rounds left.”

Johnson, who certainly would have loved to put a win in his column, seemed satisfied with second.

“But a great way to start the Chase for us. It’s 10 long races, a lot can happen. So to come out of here second is a great day.”

Kasey Kahne finished third. Fourth and fifth were not Chase drivers, Kyle Busch and Ryan Newman respectively.

Tony Stewart filed a sixth place finish. Non-Chaser Joey Logano finished seventh. Dale Earnhardt Jr. salvaged a top-10 after struggling for a lot of the day by finishing eighth. Michael Waltrip Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. and Clint Bowyer finished ninth and tenth respectively.

Seven of the top-10 were Chase racers. Kevin Harvick finished out of the top-10 in 12th. Greg Biffle ended his day in 13th. Denny Hamlin, the top seed when he came to Chicago, ran out of gas putting him in 16th. Matt Kenseth finished 18th. Jeff Gordon had a terrible hit in the wall on Turn One that ruined his day – and quite possibly his championship hopes – landing him in 35th.

Keselowski sits atop the leaderboard as mentioned earlier. He moved up three spots this week. Johnson and Stewart remain in second and third respectively. Hamlin lost three spots and occupies the fourth spot. Kahne had the most dramatic leap taking over fifth, a six place improvement.

Clint Bowyer, sixth, and Dale Earnhardt Jr., seventh, retained their same spots. Greg Biffle fell three spots to take over eighth. Truex Jr. moved up one to ninth while Kevin Harvick fell one to tenth. Kenseth tumbled three spots to 11th. Gordon stays in 12th for another week.

Next week the action returns to Loudon, New Hampshire for the running of the Sylvania 300. The race will be on Sunday, September 23rd. It will be broadcast on ESPN starting at 1pm EST. Tune in for race two of the Chase and be sure to return to this site for my Sylvania 300 Race Recap.